Should Space Be the United State’s 17th Critical Infrastructure?

January 17, 2024

The infinite expanse of space is increasingly intertwined with our daily lives, from GPS navigation to weather forecasting to satellite communications. As our reliance on space-based technologies grows, the U.S. government is grappling with a critical question: should space be designated as a critical infrastructure? 

In July, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Space Infrastructure Act that would designate space systems, services, and technology as the 17th critical infrastructure sector, joining areas like communications, manufacturing, and defense as necessary to the health and success of the United States. The bill aims to provide additional assurances that the industry has the resources needed to continue its development and security

Now, legislators and industry leaders are arguing both for and against the designation, which could have significant implications for the industry regardless of the outcome. 


satellite map of united states


The Case For Space as a Critical Infrastructure Sector

Proponents argue that as our economy relies more on space-supported systems for things like navigation systems, banking, and communications systems, the government must take more intentional actions to support the industry, keep it safe from a variety of emerging cyberthreats, and provide emergency funding in the event of a major disruption. 

Supporters also note that designating space as critical infrastructure would elevate its importance, leading to increased investment for mitigating cyberattacks and enhancing situational awareness for objects in space. Cyberattacks on satellites and communication networks that pre-empted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 highlighted the potential impacts of similar threats to American systems and technologies. 

A critical infrastructure designation would trigger stricter regulations and standards for space systems, making them more resilient to natural disasters and other disruptions. This could ensure continued access to vital services like emergency communications and financial transactions. 

Finally, proponents argue that designating space as critical infrastructure would raise its profile within the government, helping to streamline decision-making and resource allocation for space activities. 


abstract space



The Case Against Space as a Critical Infrastructure Sector

Critics like the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) argue that designating space as critical infrastructure could lead to excessive bureaucratic burdens and stifle innovation in the private space industry.  Because of the space industry's extensive reach across nearly all existing sectors, the group poses that space should be treated as a domain like ocean or airspace. The AIA also argues that because the designation as a sector likely brings additional requirements for organizations operating in the space sector without guaranteed federal funding, it could have a negative impact on the industry’s growth and innovation while also unfairly impacting smaller businesses that may not have resources to meet new requirements. As such, the AIA is pushing the White House’s National Space Council to conduct additional analysis to understand more about these potential impacts. 

Opponents position that the designation could be seen by other countries as a militarization of space, which could exacerbate existing tensions and hinder international cooperation in space exploration and development. The boundaries of space are not clearly defined, making it difficult to determine which systems and activities would fall under the critical infrastructure designation and leading to confusion and unintended consequences. 

Similarly, they argue that every function or service performed in space is already covered under existing critical infrastructure sectors. This could lead to redundancies and gaps in responsibilities, as well as difficult questions about whether something like a communications satellite belongs in the space sector or the communications sector. 

Finally, critics posit that this designation does not support the long-term future of the industry, as it looks primarily at services provided by systems in low Earth orbit whereas exploration and discovery are expanding far beyond that line. In short, they argue, the current sector model that works on Earth will not work in space. 


Maintaining Space Infrastructure at Capitol Tech 

Whether or not the Space Infrastructure Act passes will have significant implications for the future of the industry, and either outcome will require leaders who can innovate, inspire, and manage across this rapidly expanding frontier. Capitol Technology University’s programs in Aviation and Astronautical Sciences can prepare you to take on these unique challenges. Capitol also offers degree programs in Critical Infrastructure, for those who want to develop the technologies and systems used on earth and in space. For more information on Capitol Technology’s degree programs, contact our Admissions team at